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‘Have a full commitment because trying times will come’


Special to the Birmingham Times


“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Erica Wright ewright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.


Live: Gardendale 

Married: December 26, 1992 

Met: Summer 1978, in Titusville at James’s house. Lawana’s best friend Cheryl was dating James’s best friend, Jerry, and they stopped by to hang out and introduce Lawana to James.

“She had this Aretha Franklin look going on that I liked,” James recalled. “[Cheryl and Lawana] stopped by to visit him and Jerry and made the introduction, they didn’t stay long… I didn’t think I would ever see Lawana again, but [from then on] every time I saw Cheryl and Jerry, Lawana was there too.” 

Cheryl asked Lawana if she liked James “I told her ‘yes’ because he was very handsome and built,” Lawana said. “He was very charming, I liked his mannerisms…[eventually] we exchanged numbers.” 

First date: New Year’s Eve in Druid Hills (North Birmingham). James and Lawana brought in 1979 together. 

“I was very excited that we finally had gotten to go out together without Cheryl and her boyfriend. We just danced the night away and brought in the new year and he carried me home,” Lawana said.  

James remembers their first kiss at the stroke of midnight on that New Year’s Eve.    

“I was telling myself not to blow this, or be overanxious. So I was trying to play it cool,” James said. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t drink too much, I wanted to make sure I got her home safe… We didn’t let each other out of our eyesight…it felt good to be there with her, I had the best-looking woman in the house.”

The turn: Lawana and James were a pair for two years before going their separate ways and reconnecting five years later in 1986 when they ran into each other at James’s sister Betty’s house. 

“The sparks came back and we rekindled the flame,” Lawana said. “That was on a Wednesday and he asked me to come back over that Friday when I got off of work, and we’ve been together ever since.”

James had been living “the wild life”, I was a disc jockey, and out there in the nightlife, drinking, and drugging…we had to go our separate ways while I grew up,” James said. “But when I bumped into her [I learned that] she was still concerned about me and it touched my heart.  I wasn’t looking my best, but that didn’t turn her away from me, and later on, Cheryl told me that Lawana said the Lord told her I was going to be her husband. We got back together, and the best was yet to come.”

The proposal: “I was coming from out of the world (had gotten saved), and I knew we couldn’t continue living how we were living (cohabitating), and I knew that we were holding up blessings from the Lord, so I knew I had to make it right,” James said.

Lawana had been ready to marry. “I thought he was just talking and playing, so when he told me to pick a date, I said the day after Christmas, which was two weeks away. We picked a date and did it,” Lawana said.

The wedding: A small ceremony at James’s sister Sundra’s home in Irondale, officiated by their pastor, the late Dr. Nelson W. Gooden. Lawana wore a cream dress, and James wore a suit and tie.

Most memorable for the bride was a brief conversation with James right before the wedding. “He called me down into the basement and asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this, and I thought he was getting cold feet. I said, ‘no, James, you can’t do this, we have all those guests upstairs.’, But he said, ‘no, I want to get married, I just want to make sure you want to marry me because there’s no room for divorce’,” Lawana recalled.

Most memorable for the groom was the smile that spread across Lawana’s face when he reassured her that he did want to marry her. “It was beautiful,” said James. “I said, ‘let’s go upstairs and say ‘I do’, and that was memorable because [my] being raised and spoiled by my mother and grandmother and five sisters, I was told I would never get a wife,” he laughed.

Words of wisdom: Couples must master three areas for a successful marriage: connection, commitment, and communication, said James. 

“As a pastor, I tell couples to connect spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually because all of that will be important throughout their marriage; you have to have a strong connection. Next, they have to make sure that they have a full commitment because trying times will come. Commitment will help you get through the ups and downs and whatever you are dealing with as long as you are committed to one another and God. [Lastly], communication. A communication breakdown can cause havoc in a marriage. I’m guilty of it myself from time to time, but communication in whatever situation can help sustain the marriage.”

He added, remain persistent in nurturing what God has given you. “It’s already yours, all you have to do is continue to reach for it,” James said.

Lawana said, “Have trust, respect, and encourage one another. You have to be a good listener in order to communicate because marriage is a decision and not a convenience.”

Happily ever after: The Tyus’s have two children, daughter LaNetria, 40, son Keenon, 36, and one grandchild, Jameria, 18. 

Lawana, 57, is an Avondale native and Carol W. Hayes High School grad. She attended Booker T. Washington Business College [in Birmingham] where she earned an associate’s degree in secretarial science; Tuskegee University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business management, and Miles College where she earned a master’s degree in organizational management. Lawana is the owner of Winfield Weight Loss And Wellness, in Winfield, Ala.

James, 61, is a Titusville native, and West End High School grad. He attended Birmingham Easonian Baptist Bible College where he earned a bachelor’s in pastoral studies, and Andersonville Theological Seminary in McCall Georgia, where he earned a master’s of theology, a doctor of theology and doctor of ministry in biblical counseling. James works as an underground coal miner at Oak Grove Mines, and is pastor of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, in Norwood.